On April 26, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released their final Environmental Impact Statement for the Rio Grande LNG Project, which was proposed by Rio Grande LNG, LLC and Rio Grande Pipeline Company, LLC. The developers requested authorization to “site, construct, and operate the following facilities in Jim Wells, Kleberg, Kenedy, Willacy, and Cameron Counties, Texas:
- “six liquefaction trains would be constructed and operated at the Rio Grande liquefied natural gas (LNG) Terminal, each with a nominal capacity of 4.5 million tons per annum of LNG for export, resulting in the LNG Terminal’s nominal capacity of 27.0 million tons per annum;
- “four LNG storage tanks, each with a net capacity of 180,000 cubic meters;
- “LNG truck loading facilities with four loading bays, each with the capacity to load 12 to 15 trucks per day;
- “a refrigerant storage area and truck unloading facilities;
- “a condensate storage area and truck loading facilities;
- “a new marine slip with two LNG vessel berths to accommodate simultaneous loading of two LNG vessels, an LNG vessel and support vessel maneuvering area, and an LNG transfer system;
- “a materials off-loading facility in the Brownsville Ship Channel;
- “2.4 miles of 42-inch-diameter pipeline, including 0.8 mile of dual pipeline, to gather gas from existing systems in Kleberg and Jim Wells Counties (referred to as the Header System);
- “135.5 miles of parallel 42-inch-diameter pipelines originating in Kleberg County and terminating at the Rio Grande LNG Terminal in Cameron County (referred to as Pipelines 1 and 2);
- “four stand-alone metering sites along the Header System;
- “three new compressor stations (one at the LNG Terminal site);
- “two new interconnect booster compressor stations, each with a metering site; and
- “other associated utilities, systems, and facilities (yards, access roads, etc.).”
The Impact Statement was “prepared in compliance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Council on Environmental Quality regulations for implementing NEPA in 40 Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 1500–1508 (40 CFR 1500-1508), and FERC regulations implementing NEPA (18 CFR 380).”
While FERC staff made the conclusions and recommendations in the Impact Statement, FERC did receive input from “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the DOT’s Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – National Marine Fisheries Service.” While FERC received their input while making their decisions, these agencies may still develop their own recommendations for the Project, “if, after an independent review of the document, they conclude that their permitting requirements have been satisfied.”
FERC concluded that the construction and operation of the Project would have some adverse impacts on the environment, but they could be significantly reduced. But, this Project, “combined with other projects within the geographic scope, would result in certain significant cumulative impacts.” This was determined through a review of information provided by the Rio Grande Developers, and was “further developed from data requests; field investigations; literature research; geospatial analysis; alternatives analysis; public comments and scoping sessions; and coordination with federal, state, and local agencies and Native American tribes.” There are multiple reasons the Project could reduce the impact of the to less significant levels, but the main reasons are:
- “The LNG Facility site would be in an area currently zoned for commercial and industrial use, along an existing, man-made ship channel.
- “The pipelines would be collocated with, or adjacent to, other disturbed right-of-way corridors for about 66.0 percent of the routes.
- “The pipelines would be installed by trenchless methods (horizontal directional drill [HDD] or bore) where applicable to avoid impacts on all major perennial streams (i.e., streams over 100 feet wide), as well as many smaller waterbodies, wetlands, and road crossings.
- “RG Developers would follow the Project-specific Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures Plans; Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plans; Unanticipated Contaminated Sediment and Soils Discovery Plan; Unanticipated Discovery Plan (for cultural resources); HDD Contingency Plan; Fugitive Dust Control Plans; Noxious and Invasive Weed Plan; and Migratory Bird Conservation Plan.
- “The U.S. Coast Guard issued a Letter of Recommendation indicating the Brownsville Ship Channel would be considered suitable for the LNG marine traffic associated with the Project.
- “The LNG Terminal design would include acceptable layers of protection or safeguards that would reduce the risk of a potentially hazardous scenario from developing into an event that could impact the offsite public.
- “The pipelines and associated above ground facilities would be constructed, operated, and maintained in compliance with DOT standards published in 49 CFR 192.
- “RG Developers would implement their Project-specific Upland Erosion Control, Revegetation, and Maintenance Plan (Plan) and Wetland and Waterbody Construction and Mitigation Procedures to minimize construction impacts on soils, wetlands, and waterbodies.
- “All appropriate consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regarding federally listed threatened and endangered species would be completed before construction is allowed to start in any given area.
- “Consultation under the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is complete, and NMFS does not have essential fish habitat conservation recommendations for the Project.
- “All appropriate National Historic Preservation Act consultations with the Texas State Historic Preservation Office and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation would be completed before construction is allowed to start in any given area.
- “RG Developers would follow an environmental inspection program, including Environmental Inspectors, to ensure compliance with the mitigation measures that become conditions of the FERC authorizations. FERC staff would conduct inspections throughout construction, commissioning, and restoration of the Project.”
FERC also gave the Developers some site-specific measures to help mitigate the impact of both the construction and operation of the Project.